Thursday, April 02, 2009

Why Falconry?

My Mother recently sent me this "fodder for another thoughtful post":

"An admittedly 'tree-hugging' Sierra Club type friend of mine wondered aloud to me recently about the 'why' of falconry. 'Aren't they supposed to be wild birds?' she said. 'Do falconers intend to re-introduce their birds into the wild?' ...what could/should I have said and to what links or books should I refer her (and others like her) when they ask such questions?"

I suppose I can only answer for myself and the answer is likely to be lacking in the rationale that a "tree-hugging-Sierra-Club-type-friend" would like and probably the thoughtfulness that my Mother expects:

Why falconry? Because I like it!

Sure I could wax poetic about the reasons I like it, the challenge, the bond with the bird, the closeness I feel with nature when I participate in it, or direct her to others who have written similar discourses, but will that convince the friend of the validity of the pursuit? I think not.

I could justify it with the explanation that falconers only take immature birds from the wild who have only recently left the nest, explaining that these birds are facing the prospect of a difficult winter where mortality can be up to 80% and suggest that a guaranteed meal, regardless of whether or not it makes a kill, and a safe place to roost every night is probably preferred to the alternative. And I could further explain that many of these first year birds are released back into the wild in the spring after becoming proficient hunters with the help of their falconers, actually improving on its chances of survival. But then would the friend understand? I doubt it.

I could cite the recovery of the peregrine falcon, in large part due to the efforts of falconers, as justification for our existence, or cite this study suggesting that injured raptors rehabilitated using traditional falconry techniques have a better chance for survival than others. But does that really mean anything to that individual? Probably not.

I could even direct her to this post suggesting that I do it because its the perfect hobby...but I don't think she would be satisfied.

The bottom line is I do it because I like it and feel it needs no further justification.

It takes a falconer to understand falconry, if you don't "get it", then you probably never will and explaining it wastes my time and yours. I'd rather be hawking.

So, all you other falconers out there, how would/do YOU answer the question??

10 comments:

Paul said...

Hi Isaac,

I'm not a believer in fate, or predetermination, or whatever you want to call it, but that very second when I was 11 years old and saw a newly fledged kestrel that had fallen down my neighbors chimney my fate was seeled. Like some are called to serve a god, I have been called to serve a falcon. Corny? Weird? Sure, it is what it is, it's a spiritual connection that requires no further explanation.

Isaac said...

Thanks Paul!

snafu918 said...

What Paul said. It was around 11 for me too. It was like a light turned on and you just had to get closer to those amazing birds.

Albert A Rasch said...

Issac,

I'm not a falconer as you know, but I appreciate the effort that you put into the pursuit of the sport and the hunt.

I am a hunter though, and I am frequently called upon to defend what I do. Sometimes I do answer, "Because I want to. Because I like it." That's usually for those obtuse individuals, the ones that are already convinced of there own superiority.

On the other hand I have the explanatory response, sometimes scientific, sometimes philosophic, always illuminating, for the truly curious.

Just depends!

Regards,
Albert
The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles
The Range Reviews: Tactical
Proud Member of Outdoor Bloggers Summit

Doug said...

"why" questions coming from people who will never understand cannot be satisfactorily answered.

Why paint? Why write? Why sit in the woods and watch birds-it's such a waste of time.

I agree that most people won't get it.
Still, I try.
My pat answer is that It gives me the unique opportunity to view life through the eyes of my birds. Someone once called falconry "interactive birdwatching." I like that.

But more importantly, for me at least, it is the interaction with the bird, and on the unique perspective that is gained about the world when I am allowed to hunt on its terms.

Oh yeah - and it's cool!

Doug
Harris' Hawk Blog

Jeremy said...

What other opportunity in the world does the person have to trap a wild animal and form a bond so strong that the wild animal is released and chooses to return?

When a hawk or falcon is trapped it is fully self sustaining. It has hunted and provided for itself in the wild for the first several months of its life. It has left the nest and living on its own. It has zero reason to be dependent on a human.

Then I come along and trap it. I take care of it and create a bond with it. A few short weeks later I release it freely into the wild. It has every ability in the world to leave and never come back. However, it CHOOSES to come back to me on its own free will. HOW AMAZING IS THIS??? It still boggles my mind to this day. The more time we spend together the better hunter it becomes and the more equipped it is to live on its own. However it still chooses to come back to me on its own free will day after day after day.

That is the beauty of Falconry!

Jeremy

Rachel Dickinson said...

I think that some of the keenest observers of the natural world that I know are falconers. They not only have to know what's going on with their bird, they have to know about the prey, the habitat, and weather conditions. They have to understand the biology and the life history of the birds and prey they are working with. I appreciate the insight into the natural world that falconry gives to falconers.

Rachel Dickinson
www.falconerontheedge.wordpress.com

Brenda L. said...

I think you should link her to the post you just wrote. I think, despite being an exploration of how to explain your love of falconry, it accomplishes exactly that quite nicely.

I, in fact, learned quite a few things about the conservation aspect of raptors when it comes to falconry by reading your post. For example, I didn't know only immature birds were taken. It definitely seems beneficial to the birds in that light, since inexperienced birds don't exactly have the odds on their side. And it's not as if you capture and keep for the rest of the bird's natural life. As you said, many are released the next spring.

I tend to favor that natural world more than towns and cities, and sometimes I wish people would just slow down or even stop with all these housing developments and road building and land destruction. However, your explanation of the conservation aspects of falconry are enough to satisfy, I think even the most passionate 'tree hugger,' when it comes to the freedom of wild birds.

Does this person balk at capturing birds in nets to band them? At tranquilizing bears and wolves to fit them with radio collars? What about injured wildlife who must live in captivity due to a permanent injury? There is a lot we do to help wildlife that involves capture, but also often rehabilitation and release.

Mom N said...

I love all you've said here. Thanks. Keep talking. You're wonderful.

steveo_uk said...

i do it not out of choice but out of need. Although I'm not a fully fledged falconer yet there is this need to do it i cant really explain why but it;s there and like an itch you cant satisfy or scratch